Statement from Civil Society on the undemocratic attack on Arappor Iyakkam by TamilNadu Government and Chennai Police

அறப்போர் இயக்கத்தின் மீது தமிழக அரசும் சென்னை காவல்துறையும் நடத்தும் ஜனநாயக விரோத அடக்குமுறைக்கு இந்தியாவில் உள்ள சமூக செயற்பாட்டாளர்களும் முன்னாள் அதிகாரிகளும் சேர்ந்து வெளியிடும் கண்டன அறிக்கை

We the undersigned strongly condemn the series of foisted cases being filed on Arappor Iyakkam and its convener Jayaram Venkatesan by the TamilNadu Government. Arappor Iyakkam has been at the forefront of exposing Corruption and Maladministration in the ruling Government. Arappor Iyakkam has also been doing phenomenal work in raising issues of water crisis, raising issues of mismanagement of waterbodies and restoration of the same. The series of cases filed seems to be aimed at stifling and attacking the organization with vengeance for exposing the Corruption and Maladministration of Ministers and others at high places

So far 4 FIRs and 1 Criminal Defamation case have been filed on Arappor Iyakkam within the last 6 months. Three of these FIRs have been filed in a week’s time on 13/07/2019, 15/07/ 2019 and 19/07/2019. The 3 FIRs are for Arappor volunteers visiting a lake, talking about the reclassification of waterbody to Institutional use for construction of a police station in Sholinganallur and for allegedly cheating by not conducting know your rights awareness program while it was the police themselves who had forcefully stopped it by threatening the Mandapam owner. The details of Criminal Defamation case is still unknown. Apart from this, after Arappor Iyakkam had exposed Corruption in Chennai Corporation in September 2018 and filed a case against the Local Administration Minister and a set of contractors in January 2019, the Chennai Thirumangalam police had filed a FIR on on Arappor Iyakkam on 08/02/2019 based on a foisted complaint from one of the contractor. These foisted FIRs are a direct attack on the freedom of speech and expression and right to assemble guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

We would like to strongly protest against this high handed behaviour and illegal action of the police which is in brazen violation of all the fundamental rights and other protective provisions in the Indian Constitution. It is also a naked attempt to frighten and silence citizens from becoming pro-actively involved with the protection of their water bodies, assertion of the right to water as part of fundamental right to life and to ensure water security for the state.

We fail to understand which law exists that requires citizens to get prior police permission to visit water bodies which exist in the public domain, to conduct a citizens study leading to suggestions for its improvement including by involvement and participation of local people. The water rights Campaigners team was by no stretch committing any illegality warranting forced arrest and removal from the area on 13/07/2019.

Apart from this, Chennai Police have also been stopping Arappor Iyakkam’s indoor awareness events such as Know Your Rights by threatening the Hall and Mandapam owners to cancel the event over the last 1 month. It must be noted that Arappor Iyakkam has been conducting the Know Your Rights program and lake audits over the last 3 years without any issues. To completely stop them from conducting these events and harass them over the last 1 month points to a pre-planned attack by the Tamilnadu Government and Chennai Police on an organization that has been fighting for citizen’s rights, Transparency and Accountability in Governance and restoration of waterbodies. This seems to be done to satisfy the vested interests of Politicians at high places.

It appears that the Chennai Police don't want to respect the rule of law and constitutional principles and wants to silence citizen's voices. The situation is so pathetic that even to conduct peaceful agitations and protests, the police routinely reject applications for permission, forcing organisations to approach the High Court. Such anti-democratic acts of the city police, and police highhandedness and abuse of law is deplorable and to be condemned.

We demand that the TamilNadu Government and Chennai Police adhere to the Constitution and the law of the land. The TamilNadu Government and Chennai police must immediately stop the undemocratic attack on the organization and withdraw all the foisted cases on Arappor Iyakkam and its convener Jayaram Venkatesan.

Signed by

  1. Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan

  2. Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court, New Delhi

  3. D.K.Oza IAS (Retd) and Former Vice Chancellor, Gandhigram Rural University

  4. MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd)

  5. T.M. Krishna, Singer and Writer

  6. Vasanthi Devi, Former Vice Chancellor,Manonmaniam Sundaranar university

  7. Henri Tiphange, National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders Alert

  8. Nityanand Jayaraman, Environmentalist

  9. Anjali Bharadwaj, RTI Activist, New Delhi

  10. Thomas Franco, Advisor, All India Public Sector and Central Government Officers Conferderation and Former General Secretary, All India Bank Officers Confederation

  11. Senthil Arumugam and Siva Elango, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam

  12. G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal